Bilkis Bano Gang-Rape Case: A Timeline Of Events

The Bilkis Bano gangrape case has remained a prominent topic since the Gujarat riots and stood out as one of the most talked about verdicts in recent history.


Bilkis Bano gangrape case

On August 15, 2022, when India celebrated its 75 years of Independence, the trauma of Bilkis Bano of the past 20 years washed over again when 11 men who were convicted of gang-raping her, walked free. The group of 11 individuals facing accusations are Radheshyam Shah, Jaswant Chaturbhai Nai, Keshubhai Vadaniya, Bakabhai Vadaniya, Rajibhai Soni, Rameshbhai Chauhan, Shaileshbhai Bhatt, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Govindbhai Nai, Mitesh Bhatt, and Pradip Modhiya.

After struggling for nearly twenty years in her pursuit of legal redress, Bilkis Bano's quest for justice came to a disheartening conclusion as all eleven accused individuals were granted freedom from the Godhra sub-jail. The Bilkis Bano gangrape case has remained a prominent topic since the Gujarat riots and stood out as one of the most talked about verdicts in recent history. Following the approval of the sentence remission application by a panel within the Gujarat government, all the convicted individuals were released.


What is Bilkis Bano's case about? 

After the burning of the Sabarmati train in Godhra on February 27, 2002, Gujarat experienced a period of heightened tensions. Tragically, fifty-nine karsevaks lost their lives in the train incident. Anticipating violence and rage against the minority in the village, a then five-month-old pregnant Bilkis Bano fled her home in Randhikpur village with her 3-year-old daughter, husband, and her other family members to find a safe space.

They sought safety in the Chhaparvad district. Unfortunately, on March 3, a group of around 20 to 30 individuals, armed with sickles, swords, and sticks, attacked Bilkis and her family. Among these attackers were the 11 men who were later convicted of gang-raping her. Bilkis, along with her mother and three other women were raped and assaulted. Her case was taken up by the National Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court of India.


Timeline of Bilkis Bano Case 

March 3, 2002: In Ahmedabad, a violent mob descended upon the family of 19-year-old Bilkis Bano, resulting in the tragic loss of seven family members. Amidst this chaos, Bilkis, who was five months pregnant at the time, was gang-raped, while six other members of her family managed to escape.

2002-2003: Despite her efforts, the local police consistently rejected Bilkis's case, citing insufficient evidence, and even went so far as to threaten her with legal consequences if she persisted. Turning to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for help, Bilkis eventually appealed to the Supreme Court in 

December 2003. Responding to her plea, the Supreme Court mandated the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to undertake an inquiry into the matter.

January 2004: Following a thorough examination of the evidence presented in Bilkis's complaint, the CBI apprehended all the suspects allegedly involved.

August 2004: Concerned about potential tampering with evidence and risks to witnesses, Bilkis expressed her worries. Consequently, the High Court opted to transfer the trial from Ahmedabad to Bombay.

January 2008: The trial court found 13 individuals guilty of various charges including rape, conspiracy, and murder. Eleven of them received life sentences. In response, the defendants challenged their convictions in the High Court, seeking to overturn the trial court's verdict.


July 2011: The CBI urged the Bombay High Court to impose the death penalty on the convicts.

July 15, 2016: The Bombay High Court deliberated on appeals presented by the 11 individuals charged in connection with the 2002 gang rape case.

September 2016: The convicts' lawyer requested a re-examination of several witnesses, but the Bombay High Court rejected this petition.

October 2016: The Bombay High Court dismissed the application under the Code of Criminal Procedure while indicating that Bilkis could potentially elevate her application to an appeal.

December 2016: The Bombay High Court reserved judgment on appeals filed by 11 prisoners who had been sentenced to life imprisonment. Additionally, the Court reserved judgment on a CBI appeal that sought the death penalty for three of the convicted individuals, classifying it as an extraordinary circumstance.


May 2017: The Bombay High Court upheld the life sentences of the 11 convicts.

May 15, 2022: Seeking early release, one of the prisoners, who had already served more than 15 years, approached the Supreme Court. One of the individuals who had been convicted, Radheshyam Shah filed a petition to the Gujarat High Court in pursuit of sentence remission under the provisions outlined in sections 432 and 433 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The high court dismissed his appeal, highlighting that the decision regarding his remission rested with the "appropriate government," which, in this case, was determined to be Maharashtra rather than Gujarat. 


Subsequently, Shah submitted a plea to the Supreme Court, wherein he asserted that, as of April 1, 2022, he had spent a total of 15 years and four months in prison without receiving any form of remission.  Responding to his plea, the Supreme Court instructed the Gujarat government to examine the matter of remission of Shah's sentence. This directive led the government to establish a committee, under the leadership of Panchmahal Collector Sujal Mayatra, to address the issue. 

August 15, 2022: As part of the Gujarat government's remission policy, the eleven convicts were granted release from the Godhra sub-jail. The release of the 11 men triggered a widespread public outcry, prompting various PILs to be submitted to the Supreme Court. Notable individuals, including Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra and former CPI member MP Subhashini Ali, filed these PILs in August 2022. Subsequently, in November 2022, Bano herself appealed to the Supreme Court, contesting the Gujarat government's decision to permit the 11 men's release from incarceration.


The proceedings are currently underway and the Centre and the Gujarat government have justified the premature release of 11 convicts in the Supreme Court, mentioning that the convicts didn’t commit the “rarest of rare crimes” and should be given a "chance to change and reintegrate to the society."